NorCal Cars > Articles > Automotive Maintenance and Repair > Automotive Maintenance > Automotive Ignition System Problems
Understanding Ignition System Problems
Your ignition system is designed to create a spark that will ignite the fuel-air mixture in your cylinders at just the right moment to get the engine running. The three main reasons why your ignition system will fail to work are no spark, no fuel or no compression.
No Spark:The easiest way to check for spark is to use an inexpensive spark tester. If the spark test reveals that you are not getting any spark to ignite the fuel, it can be caused by a number of things. Commonly, no spark can be caused by bad ignition parts
such as your ignition coil, distributor cap, electronic ignition module, pickup coil assembly, rotor or a wiring defect.
No Fuel:This means that your engine cylinders aren’t getting the proper mixture of fuel and air. The first thing you need to do is verify that the vehicle has gas in the gas tank. Once you’ve done this, check to see if your fuel pump is operating. You can do this by removing the gas filler cap and listening to the gas filler pipe while someone else turns the ignition switch on (don’t turn the engine over).If you hear a whirring sound that goes for a few sections and then stops, your electric fuel pump is working. If you don’t hear this sound, it probably means that either your fuel pump, or the relay powering it, has gone bad.
No Compression:In order to test for compression, you will need a mechanic-grade compression tester. Check each cylinder of the engine. If the compression in all cylinders is very low, you will need to replace your timing belt.
Keeping Your Ignition System in Good Shape
An easy way to keep your ignition system running smoothly and avoid no-start problems is proper vehicle maintenance. One fairly simple thing that most people can do at home is change their spark plugs. Here are the basic steps you will need to follow in order to change your spark plugs:
- Let the vehicle sit for a few hours after it was last run so that the engine is cool.
- Purchase new spark plugs for your vehicle.
- Find your spark plug caps and remove them by pulling on the caps (not the wires).
- Use a spark plug socket to remove and replace each plug, taking care to not over tighten them.
- Replace the spark plug caps on the same plugs that they came from.
- Start your vehicle!